Historic monuments and famous statues in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, boasts a rich tapestry of historical monuments and statues that weave tales of mythology, history, and significant events.

From the iconic Saint George and the Dragon sculpture in Köpmantorget to the dignified Branting Monument honoring Hjalmar Branting’s legacy, the city is a treasure trove of artistic and historical gems.

Visitors to Stockholm can marvel at the mighty Hercules the Archer, witness the poignant Aviator Monument paying homage to Swedish aviation pioneers, and contemplate The Four Elements, an intriguing ensemble capturing nature’s essence.

The enigmatic Järnpojke and the thought-provoking Lenin Monument April 13th 1917 stand as silent witnesses to varied historical narratives. The Orpheus group, a testament to Greek mythology, and the majestic Sun Singer overlooking Strömparterren Park, invite exploration into art and mythology.

These monuments, each with its unique story and significance, invite visitors to delve into Stockholm’s captivating history and cultural heritage. If you plan to visit other historical places here, we have for you an article about the historical churches worth visiting in Stockholm.

Saint George and the Dragon

The Saint George and the Dragon sculpture, standing at Köpmantorget in Stockholm’s Gamla stan, was unveiled on October 10, 1912, commemorating the Battle of Brunkeberg’s anniversary. It’s a bronze replica of Bernt Notke’s wooden statue in Storkyrkan, dedicated to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon.

Saint George and the Dragon
Saint George and the Dragon

Crafted by Otto Meyer, the sculpture portrays Saint George poised with a raised sword, ready to strike the subdued dragon, showcasing the knight’s valiant stance and the reptile’s defeat.

Notke’s original wooden group in Storkyrkan, established in 1489, commemorated the victory of Sten Sture the Elder at the Battle of Brunkeberg. Symbolically, Saint George epitomized Swedish bravery, the dragon represented evil, and the princess embodied the besieged city of Stockholm and the Swedish nation.

On the sculpture’s granite pedestal are eight reliefs depicting the coats of arms of Stockholm, Uppland, Sten Sture, Södermanland, Kalmar, Västmanland, Släkten Tott, and Dalarna. Surrounding the base are inscriptions in Swedish praising Saint George’s leadership during the battle.

The sculpture, presenting the timeless narrative of Saint George, sits on a dedicated granite terrace, adorned with bronze scenes depicting the saga’s episodes, celebrating Swedish heroism and valor.

The Branting Monument

The Branting Monument in Stockholm stands tall at 5 meters in height and 6 meters in width, featuring a statue of Hjalmar Branting, the influential figure of Swedish Social Democracy.

Crafted in bronze relief by artist Carl Eldh, this monument resides within a small park at Norra Bantorget, historically significant as a key site for the city’s Social Democratic movement.

Eldh commenced work on the monument in 1926, a year following Branting’s passing. However, its completion and unveiling occurred much later, in 1952. The sculpture portrays Branting, looking eminent, addressing a group of workers during a May Day demonstration.

Within the crowd, figures like Axel Danielsson and August Palm, pioneers of the worker’s movement, are subtly depicted.

In 1992, a minor explosion damaged part of the monument, resulting in a hole in Branting’s figure. A group of seven youths, conducting a series of bombings on statues across Stockholm, caused this damage.

Two years later, the monument underwent restoration by Herman Bergmans Konstgjuteri AB, a local company, at a shared cost between the City of Stockholm and the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, amounting to 320,000 Swedish crowns.

This high-relief monument showcases two sides: the northern face depicts Branting addressing a May Day crowd, featuring a larger-than-life portrayal of Branting, surrounded by workers of varying ages.

The southern side is divided into three vertical fields, showcasing a healthcare symbol, a waterwheel, and summer-themed motifs, accompanied by texts from Pär Lagerkvist and Carl Eldh, praising Branting’s commitment to the welfare of Swedish workers.

Hercules the Archer

Hercules the Archer, crafted by Antoine Bourdelle in 1909, exists in multiple iterations, each revealing facets of its mythological inspiration.

Originally commissioned by financier Gabriel Thomas, the gilt-bronze masterpiece gained admiration after its 1910 exhibition at the National Society of Fine Arts for its grand dimensions of 2.50 m × 2.40 m.

The sculpture evolved in subsequent versions, with the second edition integrating reliefs of the Lernaean Hydra and the Nemean Lion, adorning the base with a banner and monogram.

Bourdelle’s inspiration stemmed from the Stymphalian birds’ extermination myth, showcasing Hercules’ prowess in archery and muscle tension, meticulously shaped by his model, Captain Doyen-Parigot, a skilled athlete and Bourdelle’s friend.

Initially confined by an exclusivity agreement, Bourdelle later expanded the sculpture’s reach, crafting replicas for various museums and cities worldwide. The statue’s journey spans continents, from Rome’s Gallery of Modern Art to Tokyo, Brussels, Prague, New York, and Lyon, finding homes in prestigious institutions and public spaces.

Admired for its mythological depth and artistic rendition, Hercules the Archer stands as a symbol of Bourdelle’s mastery and the enduring allure of Greek mythology in art.

The Aviator Monument

The Aviator Monument at sunset - watercolor painting
The Aviator Monument at sunset – watercolor painting

The Aviator Monument, a majestic statue adorning Karlaplan in central Stockholm, commemorates Swedish aviation pioneers who fell in the North Pole expedition of 1898 and the subsequent aviator era in 1917. Crafted by renowned sculptor Carl Milles, the monument, unveiled in 1931, stands as a tribute to these pioneering figures.

Standing 185 cm tall with a wingspan of 750 cm, the sculpture depicts a soaring eagle on a plinth adorned with reliefs of Icarus, early warplanes, and balloonists.

The monument’s shallow interior once held an urn containing medals honoring fallen Swedish pilots, including Salomon August Andrée, Nils Strindberg, and Knut Fraenkel, lost during the North Pole expedition.

Despite its commemorative intent, controversy surrounds the monument due to its association with Nazi symbolism. Art historians speculate on Milles’ admiration for Nazism, as the eagle’s outstretched wings draw parallels to the Nazi Eagle. In the 1940s, Swedish Nazis used the site for gatherings, sparking protests from young socialists who defaced the statue with graffiti.

Despite tumultuous episodes, the statue was re-erected in 1967 after its temporary removal during the construction of the Karlaplan metro station.

The Four Elements

The Four Elements stands as a monumental mobile sculpture crafted by Alexander Calder in 1961. Rising approximately 30 feet high, it comprises four motorized metal sheets painted in solid colors, replicating a Calder model from 1938.

Positioned at the entrance of Stockholm’s Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen, this enduring installation captivates passersby.

Originally transported from New York by Pontus Hultén, the then-director of Moderna Museet, The Four Elements featured in the Movement in Art exhibition from May 16 to September 10, 1961. Despite the exhibition’s conclusion, Calder’s creation remained, becoming a defining emblem of the museum.

A tribute to Calder’s significant presence during the exhibition, The Four Elements was a notable fixture outside the museum. Its symbolic importance led to its donation to the Moderna Museet in 1967 by Calder and engineer Allan Skarne.

Now an integral part of the Sculpture Park, this striking artwork continues to adorn the museum’s exterior, serving as an enduring symbol of artistic innovation and the institution’s legacy.

Järnpojke

Järnpojke, also known as the Iron Boy or the “little boy who looks at the Moon,” stands as a diminutive yet beloved statue in Stockholm’s Gamla stan (Old Town).

Crafted by artist Liss Eriksson in 1954, this tiny sculpture, merely 15 centimetres in height, holds the distinction of being the smallest public monument in the city.

Järnpojke - little boy who looks at the Moon
Järnpojke – little boy who looks at the Moon

Despite its small stature, the sculpture carries a significant presence, tucked away behind the Finnish Church near Stockholm Palace. Its inconspicuous location adds to its allure, often making it a challenging find for visitors wandering through the area.

During the winter, the Iron Boy dons a winter hat and scarf, adding a touch of seasonal charm to the already endearing figure. Locals and tourists alike are drawn to this cherished statue, believing that touching or patting it brings good luck—a charming superstition that has grown around this tiny symbol.

Named originally as the “Boy who looks at the Moon” by the artist, the statue’s moniker was shortened to Järnpojken due to its lengthy original name. Despite its modest size, the Iron Boy captivates visitors, who often leave small offerings, coins, or candies as tokens of goodwill or wishes for a return to Stockholm.

Lenin Monument April 13th 1917

The Lenin Monument April 13th, 1917, created by Björn Lövin in 1977, stands as a unique piece within Stockholm’s Moderna Museet outdoor collection. Positioned near the museum’s main entrance on Skeppsholmen, it reinterprets a pivotal moment captured in a 1917 Axel Malmström photograph of Vladimir Lenin’s visit to Stockholm.

Lövin’s installation recreates a cobblestone street segment from the photograph, where Lenin’s presence is symbolized by a cross-mark.

Unlike conventional monuments, it doesn’t venerate Lenin but instead challenges the status quo of historical significance. Dubbed an anti-monument or “nonument,” it provokes contemplation on who and what society chooses to commemorate.

The controversial portrayal of Lenin in a public space like Moderna Museet has stirred debate. Former prime minister Carl Bildt criticized the work, deeming it “shameful.” However, the museum curators assert that it’s not a tribute to Lenin but rather an exploration of collective memory and the complexities of remembrance.

This thought-provoking artwork continues to elicit discussion about the role of monuments and the interpretations of historical figures, navigating the fine line between commemoration and critique in public spaces.

The Orpheus group

The Orpheus Group (also known as the Orpheus Fountain) is a fountain sculpture created between 1926 and 1936 by Carl Milles and cast at the Herman Bergman Foundry. It stands in front of the Konserthuset at Hötorget in Stockholm, symbolizing Orpheus, representing musical artistry and the lyre in Greek mythology.

Orpheus Group’s journey mirrors many of Milles’ works, with a complex history. The final result significantly deviates from the two proposals he submitted for the Danelius Fund competition in 1925.

Initially meant to grace the entrance of Stockholm’s Konserthuset, the City Council struggled to decide on Milles’ proposal, named “Music.” The first sketch depicted an oversized, slender figure resembling a bundle of bananas or an artichoke base, standing against the tall columns of the concert hall.

The Orpheus Group narrowly avoided exclusion from Stockholm. In 1935, the City Council finally commissioned Milles for the project, albeit due to a mistakenly cast vote.

The sculpture’s composition evolved significantly with the addition of eight floating male and female figures around Orpheus. One male figure, with hands raised in despair toward the sky, bears Beethoven’s features, reflecting Milles’ aspiration for the great suffering artistic genius symbolized by Beethoven.

The Sun Singer

The Sun Singer, a statue depicting Apollo, the Greek sun god, poetry, and music, is an imposing bronze figure by Carl Milles. Standing bare except for a helmet, it graces Strömparterren Park in Stockholm, seemingly blessing the city as it overlooks Norrström with the Grand Hôtel in the backdrop.

The Sun Singer statue at sunset
The Sun Singer statue at sunset

Unveiled on October 21, 1926, the sculpture honors Esaias Tegnér and his poem “Song to the Sun.” The statue’s pedestal facing the lake side features a medallion in green Kolmården marble, depicting Esaias Tegnér in profile.

During the unveiling, Erik Axel Karlfeldt of the Swedish Academy delivered a speech, followed by King Gustaf V unveiling the statue. Anders de Wahl recited Tegnér’s hymn to the sun. Attendees included Prince Eugen, Fredrik Böök, Albert Engström, Sven Hedin, and Verner von Heidenstam.

The Sun Singer’s completion had financial complications, as Milles requested interest on funds held during the sculpture’s creation. His constant revisions prolonged the work, and by January 1928, he expressed dire financial straits.

Multiple versions of the Sun Singer exist globally, in places like Monticello, Illinois, the Zürich Museum, and Falls Church, Virginia. It’s also available as smaller statuettes and gilt-bronze editions.

In the 1930s, a reflecting pool was added to complement the sculpture, beautifying its surroundings. Recently, between 2011 and 2012, the entire arrangement underwent extensive renovation.

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